Archive for the “R” Category

Encyclopedia: Gambling in America – Letter R


Boule is quite similar to roulette. A stationary rounded table has eighteen pockets, two for each number from one to nine. A ball is rolled into the table, which is essentially a cone in shape. The ball bounces around and falls into one of the numbers – the winning number. Players betting on the number are paid off at 7 to 1, although true chances are 8 to 1, for a house advantage of 11.11%. Players can also bet on red and black, odds or evens, high or low, for an even payoff. They lose on even bets when a five appears, making the true chances of winning only 4 of 9, for the same house advantage of 11.11%. The game was very popular in France prior to the introduction of slot machines in the late 1980s. Slot rooms and boule rooms in France do not have admission charges. The game was also played at the Crystal Casino in Winnipeg, Manitoba, through the 1990s. Until recently, it was the only game allowed in Switzerland, where the payout was only 6 to 1 for a single-number play, for a house edge of 22.22%.

Big Wheel (Wheel of Fortune or Big Six)

A big vertical wheel of fortune is a common sight at carnivals and charity casino events. The wheel of fortune is also popular in U.S.  casinos but less prevalent in casinos of other jurisdictions. The mechanical wheel is spun by a dealer who also supervises betting activity on a table in front of the wheel. The wheel’s simplicity and exposure to a gambling crowd makes it susceptible to cheating, so it would be advisable not to play the game except in a regulated atmosphere. Casinos must be vigilant to ensure that the wheel is not compromised by players.
The wheel is about five feet across from top to bottom. It has fifty-four equally spaced sections that are separated by nails that are near the rim of the wheel. A strap of leather is mounted above the wheel, and it hits the nails as the wheel spins around. The friction of contact slows the wheel, and it stops with the leather strap settling on one of the fifty-four spaces – the winning space.
The spaces are designated by denominations of dollar bills. Twenty-three sections are marked with a $1 bill, 15 with $2 bills, 8 with $5 bills, 4 with $10 bills, and two with $20 bills. Two others are marked with a joker and a flag marking. The player bets on the category of bill he or she expects the wheel to hit. He or she receives an even money payout for a successful bet on the $1 bill, although the chances of success are only 23 of 54. This gives the house a 14.8 percent edge. A bet on $5 pays 2 to 1 for a casino advantage of 16.6%; other bets give the house an edge of from 14.8 percent to 22.2%. A bet on the joker or the flag is paid at 45 to 1. These odds advantages for the house make the big wheel a bad bet for the player. The simple nature of the activity and the symbolism of the wheel of fortune have sustained a modicum of popularity of the wheel among amateur players.


Legal restrictions on gambling are not often followed to the letter. In addition to those who would confront the law with blatant illegality, there are those who seek to find nonconfrontational ways around the law. The roulette form of gambling is quite popular, so where roulette is in itself illegal, there are those who will seek to find other games like roulette that might survive legal challenges. Two of those games are espherodromo and golden ten. Espherodromo appeared in the city of Bogota, Colombia, where casinos were always on the edge of the law. Therefore entrepreneurs came up with a game that certainly did not look like roulette, but in format was a roulette-style game. (See description of the game in entry for Colombia).

Golden Ten

The golden ten game was offered to players in nonauthorized settings; however, its operators were quite successful in avoiding prosecution on the basis that their game was not a gambling game. The golden ten wheel game was instead advanced as a skill game. The game gained an especially viable hold in the Netherlands in the 1980s after the government tried a crackdown on patently illegal casino gaming. Operators came up with this new game, although some suggest it was invented by Germans. The game is called golden ten because it uses a wheel with numbers in the center around a circle; one of the numbers is marked zero, and the other is marked with a big golden X. There are twenty-four numbers on the wheel, so if it were a random-ordered game, the house would have an advantage of about 8 percent, as payoffs on single numbers are 23 to 1, whereas the expectation should require a payoff of 25 to 1. But those running the wheel claimed that the numbers, although falling randomly, could be predicted by the players. Indeed, the game was also called observation roulette.
The circular bowl for the game is stationary. A ball rolled into the smooth metal bowl makes slow, descending spirals downward until it hits the center area, where it bounces into one of the numbered areas or the area marked zero or X. The metal bowl contains two concentric circles on its sides, about one-third and two-thirds of the way down the sides. The circles are simply markings on the bowl that do not affect the roll of the ball. The player makes his or her bet after the ball has passed the first circle but before it crosses the lower circle. The player can watch the ball come out of the dealer’s hand and watch it cross the first circle line. By observing the rolls over and over, the player is supposed to be in a good position to “predict” where the ball will likely land. With successful predictions, the player becomes a skillful winner, not a gambler at all. Gambling demands that chance be a material part of the play on at least a meaningful part of the play.  The casinos with golden tens provided lists of rules requiring players to make many observations before they tried playing. They wanted the players to be skillful. When legal authorities claimed it was a gambling game, the defenders of the game asked the government to prove that players were not using skill. One judge suggested that prosecuting officials would have to show that the players did not do better, or could not do better, than achieving the 92 percent expected payout. As the golden ten games closed down whenever police or government officials came into the premises, it was difficult to achieve such proofs. For over a dozen years the court officials allowed the game to be played and not harassed by the law. In the mid-1990s, judicial policies allowed a more effective enforcement of the law, and most of the games closed down permanently.
Was golden ten a skill game? When I interviewed one operator in Rotterdam on 20 July 1986, I asked whether indeed a skillful player could “beat the casino”. I was assured that one could. Truly, one could use skill and predict where the ball would fall. So I asked what would happen if a player came in and did predict over and over where the ball would fall. The operator paused a bit before replying slowly, “Well, we would have to throw him out.” (An option always open to illegal casinos). In truth they never had to do so, because no player could pick a winner by any other force than the force of luck.

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Roulette and Wheels of Fortune Gambling in AmericaThe notion that fortune is tied to cycles and turning of wheels is buried in deep antiquity. The wheel itself was developed about 5,000 years ago. During the time of Christ, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus had a rotating horizontal chariot wheel fixed with numbers around its circumference and used it in games of chance. The Zodiac wheel was also conceived of more than 2,000 years ago and forms the basis for horoscopes that predict a person’s fortune based upon cycles of movements of the stars and planets. Wheels or other objects were spun in various ways for games in primitive societies. Despite this long history, the origins of the wheels used in casinos today came much later in European history.

Hoca and E-O

Carl Sifakis suggests that today’s roulette wheel may have had its origins in wheels called E-O and hoca that appeared in the early 1600s in central Europe. E-O stands for even-odd. A circular table had 40 gouges or pockets carved into it around the edge. Twenty pockets were marked as even and 20 as odd. Two (1 odd and 1 even) had X’s marked on them as well.  The game paid even money to a winner. If a player bet on even, and an even number received the ball that was rolled around the table, the player won. If the ball fell into an even pocket marked with an X, it was a tie. If the ball fell in any of the 20 odd pockets, the player lost. This gave the house a 2.5% advantage. The game of hoca also had the table with 40 pockets, but 3 were marked with zeros, and the even money payouts gave the house an advantage of 7.5 percent. These games ceased operation with the appearance of the French roulette wheel.
The French wheel was purportedly developed by French mathematician Blaise Pascal, who lived from 1623 to 1662. In his mathematics work he expounded at length on probability theory. His wheel was useful for explaining his theories. Legend has it that Pascal conceived of the wheel during a retreat at a religious monastery. Others perfected the wheel that is used in French roulette (also called European roulette) today. Given the early origins of the game, it can be suggested that roulette is the oldest casino game still in active play.

French (European) and American Roulette

There are two basic styles of roulette games – French (European) roulette and American roulette. There are other variations of games with different sets of numbers, including the big wheel, boule, golden ten, and espherodromo. which are discussed later in this entry.
Both the French and American wheels have numbers from one to thirty-six on parts of the inner circle, each separated by frets. The French wheel also includes a zero, and the American wheel has a zero and a double zero. The croupiers rotate the wheel, and as it spins in one direction, he or she rolls the ball (plastic or ivory) in the opposite direction in a circular groove at the top of the wheel. Soon the ball slows down and falls toward the numbers in the inner circle. As it does, it hits small metal bumps on the surface of the wheel that cause the ball to bounce in ways making its path random as it finds its number or the zero or double zero. This number is the winner.
The player makes bets on a layout showing the thirty-six numbers in three columns and twelve rows. At the top of the columns the zero (and double zero) are placed. On the sides of the columns are places for bets on odd or even numbers, red or black, and low or high numbers.
The French wheel has a different distribution of numbers around the wheel than does the American wheel. On both, red and black numbers alternate, but not even-odd or high and low numbers. The logic of the number arrangement seeks to enhance making the number selection random.
The French game is worked by several dealers who are called croupiers. The main croupier controls the wheel. Others help by making bets for players by placing their chips on the layout. The players all use casino value chips, so it is important that the croupiers keep a close track on just who is making each bet, as all the chips are the same. Another croupier places a marker on the winning number and separates the winning bet chips from other chips that he rakes in. All bets are paid out with wins that allow the casino to have a 2.70% edge. The bets on the individual numbers are paid at 35 to 1 even though the true odds are 36 to 1. Even payouts are given for odd-even, red-black, and high-low, and the chance of each bet winning is 18 in 37. Bets may also be made on columns, rows, adjacent numbers on the layout, four numbers on the layout, and special combinations of numbers that appear near other numbers. A voisins bet (meaning “neighbors”) is placed on the four numbers that surround the last winning number. A les voisins du zero bet covers the numbers surrounding the zero. A finals bet can be placed on all numbers ending in the same digit (for example, 6, 16, 26, and 36), and les tiers is a bet covering one third of the wheel. Les orphelins is a bet covering numbers not in les tiers or les voisins du zero.
As the croupiers place bets for the players and deliver payouts for players, and all the chips look the same, the playing process is slow. Each game involving the spinning of the wheel takes two minutes or more if there are several players. This contrasts with the American wheel game where a play usually occurs more than once a minute, and even as many as 100 times an hour.
The American game offers worse odds for the player, as the wheel has two zeros along with the thirty-six numbers. The odds against the player hitting a single number are therefore 37 to 1, but the payoff is the same as with the French game, 35 to 1. This gives the house an edge of 5.26%. Red-black, even-odd, high-low bets are paid even money, but the player’s chances of success are 18 in 38 for the same 5.26% house advantage. The player could do worse yet. He or she could bet on a series of five numbers at the end of the table – the 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, with a payoff possibility of 6 to 1, whereas the true chances are 33 to 1, for a house advantage of 7.89%. In some casinos with American roulette (e.g., Atlantic City casinos), a bettor on even payout bets (odd-even, red-black, high-low) loses only half of his or her bet if the zero or double zero comes up. This rule, called en prison (because half of the bet remains on the table unless it is withdrawn), reduces the house edge to 2.70% on this bet.
In American roulette, only one dealer is needed to spin the wheel and to handle all wagers. The players purchase (with cash or casino value chips) individual colored chips that are distinguished from those of all the other players. The players place their own chips. All the dealer must do is make sure there are no bets placed after the ball descends into the winning number’s space.
The English variation of roulette offers the player the best odds. A French wheel is used with its single zero, but players have their individualized American chips. The house edge of 2.7% is in contrast to French roulette because of another difference. In French roulette the player is obligated to tip the dealer with each win. If the player wins thirty-five chips, he or she “must” pay one to the croupiers as a tip. Must is a strong word, but if the tip is not paid, the croupier just might lose track of that player’s future bets if they are winners (after all, the chips are all the same for all the players). In England this is not a major problem – first, because the players have individualized chips, and second, because tipping of dealers is prohibited in the casinos. Hence in effect, the true edge in England is 2.7%, whereas, in reality, in France it is closer to the American edge of 5.26%.
Because of the odds disadvantage, the game of American roulette is not popular. Indeed, roulette action in Las Vegas casinos is close to zero, certainly less than 1 percent of the action. Yet the game of roulette has qualities that should be attractive worldwide. Actually, roulette is the premier table game of most European casinos. Roulette is a simple game that is easily understood even by the most novice gambler.  Also with but a few exceptions (the en prison rule and the five-series bet in American roulette), all bets on the roulette table have the same expected payout – 94.74% for American roulette and 97.3 percent for French roulette – whether the player bets on one number, two, a column, or odds or even, red or black, or high or low numbers. It is a democratic game; all the players, amateur and professional, get the same chances. Unlike blackjack or craps, there is no “stupid” bet – that is, once one decides to start playing.
Roulette is also a game that permits players to try a wide variety of systems. Many casinos encourage systems by keeping boards that display the last twenty numbers that have come up on the wheel. Also some casinos publish books showing the actual numbers that came up on individual wheels over weeks, months, and even years. Whatever system a player may conjure up, the player can pretest it by applying it to real numbers and sequences of numbers that have come up on actual wheels.

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Arnold Rothstein (1882–1928) represents a great transitional mark in gambling life in the United States. He took gambling enterprise from being an entrepreneurial activity of individuals operating at the edge of the law toward becoming a major industry centrally controlled by criminal elements. In the process he established a reputation for being a man of his word and a dominant high-stakes player. He defeated Nick the Greek Dandolos in a dice game with stakes of $600,000. Rothstein owned several casinos, and he was the financial linchpin who held together the ring that fixed the 1919 World Series. He also developed the layoff system for bookies across the country. His transitional role coincided with the coming of national Prohibition, which, of course, provided great incentives for centralized Mob activities.
Arnold Rothstein was born in 1882, the son of Arthur Rothstein. His father was a successful merchant. Although he wanted Arnold to follow in his footsteps, it was not to be. Arnold loved games, and he also loved to play. In 1909, Arnold was married at Saratoga during the racing season. He actually used his ring and his wife’s jewelry as collateral for his bets on his wedding night. Compulsive gamblers say that gambling is the most powerful of life’s urges, and whatever is in second place cannot even compete. Rothstein coveted the lifestyle he found at Saratoga, and he vowed (some vows are taken seriously) that he would come back in a role other than a tourist player.
Rothstein started playing harder and harder in New York City and also on ocean liners. Then he ran the games. Before he was thirty he had gambling halls in the city, and soon he was planning his return to Saratoga.
In Saratoga he created and opened the Brook, a nightclub with gambling. He began to restore an aura that Richard Canfield had established in the first decade of the century. Rothstein later acquired the Spa casino, and he invited Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano to be operators of his games. Other figures who emerged as leading mobsters and propelled the Mob’s gambling activity toward the Las Vegas Strip were his friends – Frank Costello, Dutch Schultz, Waxey Gordon, and Jack “Legs” Diamond.
Rothstein had a stable of horses, and he became very active in bookmaking – for races and sports events. At a casual meeting of other bookies, one remarked that he had passed up a lot of action recently because too many bets were on one side of the proposition, and he had to control his risks. Rothstein told him if that happened again to call him, and he would cover the action and thereby help the bookie balance his books – for a small percentage. Rothstein’s headquarters suddenly became the center of sports and race betting for the United States. Layoffs came from Rothstein. (Layoffs occur when the clients of minor bookies bet too heavily in favor of one team. The minor bookies seek out major players, such as the Rothsteins, in order to spread out their risk – that is, lay off some of their bets with a bigger bookie). The central headquarters also became the source of odds for sports gambling.
From such a position of power and influence in sports betting, Rothstein became involved in the most notorious sports scandal of the twentieth century. A Boston bookie called him because some players on the Chicago White Sox had requested $80,000 to throw the World Series in which they were playing the underdog Cincinnati Reds. Definitive facts do not exist to say for sure if Rothstein provided all or part of the $80,000. Many writers think he did. For sure he gambled heavily that the Cincinnati team would win. He took hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling wins on the series. The fix held. Revelations of the fix were not made public for a year. The subsequent response was for major leagues (especially the baseball leagues) to establish strict rules governing betting by players. Owners were treated differently. Neither players nor owners, however, were ever to bet on games involving their own teams. Rape, drug sales, and even murder were lesser crimes compared to this serious matter. Players involved in the 1919 scandal were banned forever from baseball, just as Pete Rose has been for his alleged bets that his team would win games in the 1980s. The name of the greatest hitter in the history of the sport is not found in the Hall of Fame because of transgressions that violate the rules that arose from the 1919 scandal.
Rothstein’s days as a leading hitter came early in his life. Actually, there were not many days later in his life. Although he had been considered a man of integrity, he welshed on gambling debts stemming from a game in 1928 in which he lost $340,000. He indicated a refusal to pay because he thought the game was rigged. A few weeks after refusing to pay, he was found with a bullet in his side. He knew enough of the code of honor not to squeal on his assailant in the day or so he lingered before he died. He was only forty-six.

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Rhode Island from its inception has been a community marching to its own drummer. In its first era of European settlements it was a place for persons who rejected the rules of other colonies and migrated. In the modern era immigrants have also left their mark on the character of Rhode Island life. These populations have very willingly become patrons of gambling activity, whether the activities were conducted by illegal mobsters or by legitimate authority. The state has been only one of four states to permit betting on jai alai games. Pari-mutuel betting is also authorized for dog and horse tracks. A lottery started in 1974 offers instant games, keno, daily numbers, lotto tickets, and tickets for the Powerball games.
There was an effort to introduce casino gambling into the resort city of Newport in 1980.  An advisory vote showed that 81% of the residents did not want casinos. State officials took heed and the effort died. In the late 1990s the Narragansett Native American tribe won a compact to offer casino-type games; however, no casino was opened by the end of the century.
In 1992, Rhode Island became the second state to have machine gaming at racetracks. The machines were authorized for Lincoln Greyhound Park and a jai alai fronton. The greyhound facility soon dropped “greyhound” from its name and directed most of its advertising toward machine-playing customers. By mid-1994 there were 1,281 machines at the track. At first, 33% of the machine revenue went to the track and 10% went to purses for the dog races. Later the state took 33%, the track took 60%, and 7% went to purses.
In late 1993, traditional “reel” slot machines were added to the mix, as it was felt that the players should have the same variety of machines offered by a casino in nearby Connecticut. Machines were positioned so that their players could watch the races and had easy access to betting windows.

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Reno - Gambling in AmericaThe Biggest Little City in the World – Reno, Nevada – was settled in 1868 as a community planned around a railroad center serving the Comstock mining area of Virginia City. The city grew sufficiently during its early years to allow its survival after silver-mining interests waned. Nonetheless, the city had to turn to other activities to remain economically viable. Reno and Nevada accepted certain behaviors and activities not allowed elsewhere. The city did not ban the prostitution that became part of the scene in the early mining years. The city held the Jeffries-Jackson boxing match in 1910 when other states banned the sport. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Reno established its reputation as a place where divorces could be easily obtained. Gambling was permitted from the beginning without interruption. From 1910 to 1931, however, the gambling activity was illegal, even though openly tolerated.
When Nevada’s legislature passed the wide-open casino bill of 1931, Reno became the premier casino city of the United States. It maintained that status until Las Vegas accelerated its development in the 1950s.
The first legal casinos of the 1930s were merely the same bars, taverns, and restaurants that had operated gambling over the previous two decades in their back rooms. The largest was the Bank Club, which had conducted games in its basement. Within a month of the new law, a renovated and enlarged facility was opened on the ground floor. It had the first electric bingo board in a casino. Other facilities proliferated with small-scale gambling.
The operations of Bill Harrah and the Smith family redefined the nature of Reno and of casino gambling generally in the later years of the decade. When they developed their properties, Reno became much more than just an outlaw town with quickie divorces. It was a destination resort.
The Smiths came from Vermont, where Raymond I. “Pappy” Smith had run carnival games. In the early 1930s he migrated to a beach location near San Francisco, where he began to take the “suckers’” dollars. In 1935 California attorney general Earl Warren began an antigambling crusade. “Pappy” and his two sons, Raymond A. and Harold, decided that the legal air of Reno would be better for their health. They started a bingo hall on Virginia Street in the red-lined area where gambling was permitted by the city council. They called their place Harolds Club. The other clubs and casinos acted like carnival operators and tried to take all the players’ money as fast as they could, but the Smiths tried a new approach in their facility. They viewed their customers as their ultimate “bread and butter” only if they were nurtured, well respected, and well treated. Every day Pappy Smith would walk the floor, joke with players, and give “donations” to players who lost all their money. Every player always had a meal and enough money for a bus ride home.
The Smiths were also promoters. For a short time they had a game called mouse roulette. A mouse would be released into a cage having a circular board with numbered holes. The mouse would eventually go into one of the holes, and the number on the hole would be the winning number in the game. Players discovered, however, that they could make noises, causing the mouse to quickly run into the nearest hole. The game had to be taken out as it lost too much money for the casino.
The Smiths launched casino gambling’s first national (and world) advertising campaign. They placed 2,300 billboards on major highways throughout the country. The billboards featured a covered wagon and the words Harolds Club or Bust. The signs soon appeared in countries on every continent. The world knew that there was a Reno and that Reno had casinos. The Smiths also opened their doors to women players by being the first casino to hire women as dealers.  In 1970 Harolds Club was sold to Howard Hughes. It was Hughes’s only northern Nevada property.
Bill Harrah and his father were also encouraged by authorities to close down their “bingo” games in California. Bill had grown up in luxury, but unfortunately his father’s fortune fell apart during the Depression, and he had to leave college to help run his father’s remaining business venture, a bingo game at Venice Beach. When Bill visited Reno he was generally disgusted with the “sawdust” nature of the low-class joints he found. He thought the city could do a lot better. After several tries he was finally able to set up operations on Virginia Street. He gave his players the feel of luxury – carpets, draperies, good furniture, comfortable restaurants. He was the first Reno operator to bring big-time entertainers to a casino. He also drew customers by creating the largest automobile collection in the world. Harrah is also credited for developing internal casino security by installing the skywalk, also known as the “eye in the sky”.
Harrah also developed a casino at South Lake Tahoe, bringing his ideas of luxury surroundings to gambling properties there. While developing marketing strategies there, he instituted bus tours for players out of the San Francisco area and other parts of California.
Harrah’s was the first casino organization with publicly traded stocks. Nevada passed its legislation enabling public stock ownership for casino in 1969, and Harrah’s went public in 1971. In 1973, the stock was traded on the New York Stock Exchange. After Bill Harrah’s death in 1978, the company was sold to Holiday Inn. Today it is among the giants of the corporate casino industry, having revenues second only to the Park Place conglomerate.
Reno grew with other new properties and with expansions. In the 1950s, the red-line casino district was eliminated, and casinos could be placed in other commercial areas. The 1950s saw gaming grow with the Mapes and Riverside Hotels on lower Virginia Street; John Ascauga started the Nugget in suburban Sparks. Competition from Las Vegas dampened expansion in the 1960s, but the 1970s brought a building revival. Several major properties were opened. The Eldorado started games in 1973, and the Comstock, Sahara (now the Reno Flamingo Hilton), and Circus Circus opened in 1978. The same year Kirk Kerkorian constructed the MGM Grand with over 1,000 rooms – later expanded to 2,000. The MGM Grand had the largest casino floor in the world when it opened—over 100,000 square feet of gaming space. The MGM Grand was later sold to Bally’s, and subsequently to Hilton.
Until 1995, there was no more casino construction in Reno. The market essentially went flat. In 1995, however, the Eldorado and Circus Circus combined to build the largest downtown casino – the Silver Legacy. Today Reno seeks to “hold its own” against competition from Native American casinos in California and the aura of Las Vegas to the south. The city has developed marketing around a series of events throughout the year. The National Bowling Center was built downtown, and it features many tournaments. The city also hosts the world-class Reno Hot Air Balloon Races each year. There is also a multitude of music, ethnic, and nationalities festivals. Canada Days is especially popular with a key market segment – tours from the country to the north.
The forty-five casinos of the Reno-Sparks area (Washoe County), with approximately 15,000 rooms, produce gambling revenues of approximately $1 billion a year, or 12 percent of the state’s revenue and 2% of the national gambling revenue. The casinos are not as able to appeal to “high rollers” as are the Las Vegas properties. Las Vegas casinos win about 40 percent of their revenues from table games, whereas Reno properties win less than 30% from tables. Next to Las Vegas, Reno will continue to be number two, and they will have to “try harder” just to stay in place.

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Middle Eastern and Asian countries usually ban gambling. For the most part Arab states, India, China, Japan, and other Asian countries have no casinos. Regional religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism – which are also practiced by many Americans – generally account for the legal prohibitions.
It is written in the Koran – the holy scriptures of the Islamic faith – “Only would Satan sow hatred and strife among you, by wine and games of chance, and turn you aside from the remembrance of God, and from prayer; will ye not, therefore, abstain from them?” Islamic law therefore condemns gambling as being contrary to the word. The activity is viewed as “unjustified enrichment” and “receiving a monetary advantage without giving a countervalue” (Survah V, verses 90–91). The evidence of a gambler is not admissible in an Islamic court. Anyone receiving gambling winnings is obligated to give the money to the poor. There are, however, two exceptions to the general prohibition on gambling: Wagers are permitted for horse racing, as such betting was an incentive for training necessary for the holy wars; also, prizes may be given for winners of competitions involving knowledge about Islamic law.
Under Hindu law, gamblers are also disqualified as witnesses. Because of their “depravity”, they are considered, as are “thieves and assassins,” to be people in whom “no truth can be found”. The Hindu law books indicate that gambling – among the most serious of vices – makes a person impure and that “the wealth obtained by gambling is tainted” (Eliade 1987, 5:472).The devout Buddhist considers gambling wrong. In the Parabhava Sutta, the Buddha includes addiction to women, strong drink, and dice as one of eleven combinations of means whereby men are brought to loss. The one path to victory is loving the “dhamma” – the Buddha’s teaching. Monks are warned that games and spectacles – including fights between elephants, horses, buffalo, bulls, goats, rams, and cocks; also, various board games, chariot races, and dice games – are detrimental to their virtue.
Buddha saw that the world was suffering because of desire. Desires could not be satisfied, and therefore we had frustration. When we achieved our wants we only wanted more, and then we became obsessed with fears that others would take away what we had. In rejecting desires, we had to seek the ten “perfections” in generosity, self-sacrifice, morality, renunciation, energy, forbearance, truthfulness, loving, kindness, and equanimity. These perfections come with a rejection of worldly passions including those aroused by gambling activity (Eliade 1987, 5:472).
The Shinto faith of Japan emerged after centuries of contact with Buddhism. It became a national religion in the nineteenth century, incorporating many Buddhist beliefs. It extols the virtue of industriousness and strong willpower. Hence, gambling is accorded the status of an evil activity, as it diverts one from the path to virtue and righteousness.
Marxism has replaced religion to a major extent in China and North Korea, although remnants of religious practices can be witnessed. The notions of Marxism are consistent with the prohibitions of gambling found within the major regional religions. Marxist and socialist thought views gambling as an activity that takes people away from productive pursuits, and in an organized sense, gambling is another capitalist activity that exploits the working classes.
The force of Marxism and religious doctrines of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism upon the laws of most Middle Eastern and Asian countries has been pronounced. Nonetheless, the affluent among the populations of the region have always found gambling outlets available for their play.  Middle Eastern and Asian gambling enclaves thrive in places such as Macao, Beirut, Cairo, Manila, and Kathmandu. And Las Vegas casinos include nationals from the Eastern and Middle Eastern countries, which forbid gambling, high on the lists of their most exclusive high-rolling players. Religions in the East as well as the West do impact upon attitudes people have toward the legalization of gambling, but the force of beliefs as a determinant over whether people will personally gamble or not may be less pervasive.

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Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr postulates that Christians look at the involvement of Christ in the culture of worldly activity in five basic ways.
(1) They see Christ against the culture of the world. Here one must choose the sin of this world or a heavenly world that is totally separate.
(2) A second approach is that Christ is of and in the world. God is the force that directs culture toward its greatest (human) achievements. 
(3) Christ is above the culture. People may live lives directed toward a good, but to achieve the highest human aspirations they must make a supernatural leap to the higher power.
(4) Christ and culture are forces with dual power over people. As subjects we render unto both God and Caesar, seeking to keep religious and civil authority separate yet together.
(5) Christ is seen as the transforming agent to remold the culture. People undergo a conversion while they are in the culture (Niebuhr 1951).
Christian views on gambling can be guided by these approaches. Absolutist views – always negative views – toward gambling are found among groups adhering to the first view. For instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses seek not to let the materialism of this world become dominant forces in their lives, and accordingly, they disdain all gambling. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not lobby governments or campaign for or against any gambling questions. Members do not vote. Although they show respect for authority, they see governments as worldly, secular institutions, which should not be encouraged, albeit the edicts of government will be obeyed. Their spokespersons make it clear that their members do not participate in or support gambling. The Watchtower, the official journal of the faith, regularly reports on gambling, calling it an activity of “greed” and “covetness” stimulating “selfishness and lack of concern for others”. Gambling “degrades” people and “entraps them in false worship” (1 October 1974, 9).
The Salvation Army also rejects gambling in its entirety; however, it subscribes more to the second approach of Christ and culture, that Christ is of the world, that he came and walked among the sinners and gave them the light by which to transform their lives and lift up the culture. With this approach the church does not actively campaign against proposals for gambling, but rather like Gamblers Anonymous groups concentrates its efforts on reforming the individual suffering from the influences of gambling.
The third and fourth approaches that churches take toward the role of Christ in culture seem to accept the status quo with regard to public policy. Many of the churches do not oppose gambling outright but look at it in its full context. Churches such as the Methodists (United), Southern Baptist, and Latter-day Saints condemn all gambling by members in all circumstances while they adhere to the fifth notion that Christ is the transforming agent sent to earth to remold the culture by converting individuals within the culture.
The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, for instance, proclaims:
Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government. As an act of faith and love, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice. Community standards and personal lifestyles should be such as would make unnecessary and undesirable the resort to commercial gambling, including public lotteries, as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government. (General Conference of the United Methodist Church 1984, 98–99)
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States. Their director of family and moral concerns, Harry Hollis, told the Commission on the Review of the National Policy on Gambling much the same story:
In all its resolutions, the Southern Baptist Convention has rejected gambling. Obviously, some forms of gambling are more serious than others, but all forms have been consistently rejected in Southern Baptist statements and resolutions. The use of gambling profits for worthy activities has not led Southern Baptists to endorse gambling…. The availability of gambling tempts both the reformed gambler and the potential gambler to destruction. For the entire community, gambling is disruptive and harmful. Thus, concerned citizens should work for laws to control and eliminate gambling. (Bell 1976, 172–173)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has been equally vehement in maintaining that gambling is always wrong. In 1982 Spencer Kimball, the twelfth president of the church wrote:
From the beginning we have been advised against gambling of every sort.  The deterioration and damage come to the person, whether he wins or loses, to get something for nothing, something without effort, something without paying the full price. Profiting from others’ weaknesses displeases God. Clean money is that compensation received for a full day’s honest work. It is that reasonable pay for faithful service. It is that fair profit from the sale of goods, commodities, or service. It is that income received from transactions where all parties profit. (Kimball 1982, 355–356. See also Ludlow 1992, 533)
An interesting side issue arose recently over temple privileges. A member of the Church of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) must be in good standing in order to enter a temple. In the past if a Mormon worked in a gambling establishment or in a gambling-related job, especially if the job was on the “frontline” of providing gambling service such as being a dealer, he or she might be denied good-standing status. When the church decided to build a temple in Las Vegas (about 10 percent of the local population are Mormons), many members who held jobs in casinos wished to have temple privileges. Casinos provide the largest number of jobs in the Las Vegas community, so many members of the Mormon faith do work in casinos. The church stand against casino employment was reviewed, and it was decided that casino workers who did not personally gamble and did not overtly encourage others to gamble could have good standing if they met other church and community obligations.
Churches that accept gambling in some circumstances generally view Christ’s role in culture in the third or fourth way as advanced by H. Richard Niebuhr. L. M. Starkey writes in Money, Mania, and Morals that “All Catholic moralists are agreed that gambling and betting may lead to grave abuse and sin, especially when they are prompted by mere gain. The gambler usually frequents bad company, wastes much valuable time, becomes adverse to work, is strongly tempted to be dishonest when luck is against him, and often brings financial ruin upon himself and those dependent upon him” (Starkey 1964, 90–91). Nonetheless the Catholic Church reconciles gambling with the fact that Christ must have been of the world as God had given people personal freedom that led them into certain activity. The New Catholic Encyclopedia relates, “A person is entitled to dispose of his own property as he wills… so
long as in doing so he does not render himself incapable of fulfilling duties incumbent upon him by reason of justice or charity. Gambling, therefore, though a luxury, is not considered sinful except when the indulgence in it is inconsistent with duty” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967, 276).
The Catholic Church believes that it is sinful for a person to gamble if the money gambled does not belong to him or if the money is necessary for the support of others. The Church also condemns gambling behavior when it becomes compulsive and disruptive to family and social relationships. Moreover, the freedom to gamble implies a knowing freedom to enter into a fair and honest contract for play. Cheating at gambling is considered wrong, as are all dishonest games.
The Church also looks at the end result of the activity. If through gambling good consequences may follow, the gambling activity may even be considered good and may be promoted by the Church. Hence, a limited-stakes bingo game conducted honestly by Church members within a church building in order to raise funds for a school or hospital is not bad.
On questions of legalization of gambling, Catholic Church leaders ask if the particular form of gambling puts poor people at disadvantages, if it causes people to become pathological gamblers, and if the gambling will be adequately monitored to ensure that it is honest and fair. Church leaders have opposed some public referenda while they have supported others.
The Church of England and its U.S. offspring, the American Episcopal Church, both essentially reformed Catholic organizations, accept the same approach toward gambling as is taken by the Catholic Church. The National Convention of the church has no stated position on gambling.  Individual church organizations have used gambling events to raise funds; others have prohibited the use of gambling within church facilities. Basically the issue of gambling is a low-priority ethical issue. Individuals are left to develop their own attitudes on the subject.

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The issue of gambling for religious groups from Judaism through the most modern Christian sects has been addressed, but not at all times and certainly not always in the same way. In Judaism, rabbis and other scholars meticulously analyze historical evidence regarding activities. Jewish law changes and grows with interpretations. The interpretations have differed considerably at times; however, there is a general position of tolerance couched in considerations of the situation of the gambling activity.
Occasional gambling in social situations has been moderately acceptable. Indeed, because an enemy king had once rolled the dice to determine when to attack Israel armies, and he attacked at the wrong time losing the battle, the Jewish people have come to celebrate a day called Purim. Games even involving gambling are played on Purim, a time also known as the Feast of Lots. The winner of money at such a game, however, is supposed to make an offering to the synagogue (Wigoder 1989, 576).
Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the lamps. As a “lucky day” for the Jewish people, it has also been known as “the New Year’s Day for Gamblers”.
A person who gambled either professionally, as a means of personal support, or habitually was shunned, despite these other examples. The professional gambler was considered a thief, not earning his money through honest labor, and the habitual gambler as one who harmed society. A gambler was “a parasite engaged in useless endeavor and contributing nothing to the world” (Werblowsky and Wigoder 1966, 152). Time spent in gambling games has been viewed as time away from study and productivity. Jewish courts traditionally will not honor gambling debts. And gamblers could not have weddings or funerals in synagogues, nor could they be witnesses in court, as their word was not considered truthful (Bell 1976, 217).
There have been divided interpretations regarding the use of gambling for charitable and fund-raising purposes. Some synagogues have allowed bingo games on their premises, but an association of synagogues condemned the process. Some scholars have interpreted tragic events suffered by the Jewish people at different times in history as being punishments for sins such as gambling. Leaders in the faith have actively opposed legalization of gambling at certain times, although not taking positions or allowing passive support at other times (Jacobs 1973, 151–153).

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Las Vegas and religion have a strange but enduring relationship. For many years local boosters would proudly proclaim that Las Vegas had more churches per person than any other city in the country. Perhaps that was because the population used to be small, and the boosters probably counted all the wedding chapels as churches.
Actually Las Vegas is pretty well “churched”, but not more than any other large city today. What is true even today is this: Las Vegas has more prayers per person than any other city in the country. It is said that there are no atheists in a foxhole, and the same can be said about the people standing around a high-stakes craps table. There just possibly may be a difference between the prayers heard near a casino craps table and the ones mumbled in a church on a Sunday morning—the prayers in the casino may be more serious.
As the casino entertainment industry became entrenched in Las Vegas, various ministries would make their appearances on the Las Vegas Strip. In the 1970s, the Southern Baptist Convention assigned a young minister to the Strip to establish a ministry among the employees, entertainers, and players in the casinos. More recently, the Riviera Casino put a clergyman on its own staff. He is available to counsel other staff as well as tourist guests who experience immediate personal and family needs while they are in Las Vegas. He also conducts services in the casino facility.
Religious and gambling institutions need not be incompatible, although leaders in each are found at loggerheads with one another. The primary leader of the opposition to gambling in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century is Tom Grey, a Methodist clergyman. Churches have been prominent in campaigns against gambling, as documented in John Dombrink and William Thompson’s The Last Resort: Success and Failure in Campaigns for Casinos (Dombrink and Thompson 1990). On the other hand, casinos, wary of political opposition from religious groups, have often extended financial support to church groups. The famous casino at Baden, Germany, actually constructed both the Catholic and the Protestant church buildings of its town. The Berkeley Casino Company of Glasgow, Scotland, aided a local Presbyterian church body by purchasing its old building in order to utilize it as a casino.  The pews were removed, but the religious aura seems to hang over the roulette wheels and blackjack tables. On the other hand, the Guardian Angel Church on the Las Vegas Strip features a large stained glass window that depicts scenes of several nearby casinos. Of course, many churches have also used bingo games and raffles for fund-raising reasons.
The relationship of gambling and religion goes back to the dawn of human time. Was the snake tempting Adam and Eve with a gamble when he suggested that they disobey God and eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge? Could they have known where that quest of knowledge would lead them? Could they have contemplated the nature of life had they not searched for something different?
Moral and religious views on gambling are probably as old as gambling activities themselves. Prehistoric and primitive societies have engaged in exercises to try to make sense of their universe and control their environment by appealing to the supernatural, forces often expressed as gods or God – that is, powers beyond their world. David Levinson’s Religion: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia describes religion as a “relationship between human beings and the supernatural world” (Levinson 1996, vii). The exercises involving appeals to chance would be part and parcel of a people’s religion.
For instance, in all societies from the prehistoric to even modern times, the notion of divination has been present. Divination involves beliefs and practices of human beings that enable them to communicate with gods (or God) in order to tell the future. In divining the future, leaders might throw sticks or stones into the air and watch where they fall in order to gain the answers. It was as if they were throwing dice or rolling a gambling wheel. Religious leaders might also hold long sticks that would somehow point them in a direction that their people should follow on a journey, perhaps in quest of water or food. A large part of early religions may have involved the use of gambling instruments (Levinson 1996, 53–54, 182–183). The origins of many games played among traditional Native American tribes may have had religious connotations. The following discussion, however, concentrates on early experiences in the Judeo-Christian heritage as well as established Eastern world religions.
The Hebrews were probably carrying on prehistoric traditions as their leaders sought ways to find the “truth” about the future or about the proper decisions they should make. They would throw stones that were in essence two-sided dice called Urim and Thummim in order to choose between two alternatives. They would also draw lots in situations calling for choices. There are many references in the Old Testament regarding the use of these gambling devices for decision making.  Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the following eight cases. Aaron was made to carry Urim and Thummim upon himself as he came before the Lord, as the objects would tell him the judgment of the people of Israel. (Exodus 28:30). The Lord commanded that Moses place the Urim and Thummim on Aaron (Leviticus 8:08). In Numbers 27:21, Moses chooses Joshua to lead the people, and he is given Urim and Thummim to help him find the right answers in his leadership. Similarly, Levi is given the objects in order to make choices (Deuteronomy 33:08). As Saul was preparing for war with the Philistines, he was bothered when the Lord did not urge him forward. He thought it perhaps was because of his sins, his son’s sins, or those of his peoples. Urim and Thummim told him the sins were not his people’s. Then he threw the stones again, and he was told they were sins of his son Jonathan. His son confessed that he had broken the laws. When Saul determined that his son would have to die, the people intervened, and Saul was forced to walk away from battle (I Samuel 14:41). Later Saul threw the stones again in order to get directions he should take in another battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 28:6). Solomon (Ezra 2:63) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:65) both used Urim and Thummim to determine which of the people who came to the temple were clean—in the sense of having the proper family heritage—and could enter the priesthood and partake of holy food.
The Old Testament also records more than a dozen references to the use of lots or lotteries. The first was when Aaron used lots to decide which of two goats were to be sacrificed to the Lord as a sin offering (Leviticus 16:08). Joshua divided the land of Israel into seven portions and awarded them to families through a casting of lots (Joshua 17:6). Moses used lotteries to divide the lands of Israel among families (Numbers 33:54). Soldiers were selected for battle by lottery (Judges 20:9). Saul was chosen to be king by the process of a drawing (l Samuel 10:20–21). David was told which way to go in order to assume command of his troops (2 Samuel 2:1).
Leaders of the Israel church community were chosen by lots (1 Chronicles 24:31ff.), and the music was organized for the temple by using lots to assign duties to individuals (1 Chronicles 25:8–31). Specific duties such as controlling gates and roads, as well as storehouses, were also given by lots (1 Chronicles 26:13–14). In Nehemiah (10:34) it is reported that lots were cast to decide which families would bring wood offerings into the house of God. One-tenth of the people were allowed to live in Jerusalem; the others lived in smaller villages. Those who were allowed into the city were chosen by lotteries (Nehemiah 11:1). Job (6:27) has a reference to one remonstrating with God, saying “you would even cast lots over the fatherless and bargain over your friend.” In a passage that must have been in anticipation of the crucifixion, the Cry of Anguish in the Psalms (22:18) talks of one dying and of dogs who “divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots”.
Joel spoke the word of the Lord condemning the nations that had scattered the Jews, claiming that they “cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes” (Joel 3:03). In Obadiah (1:11) the Lord condemned the people of Edom for allowing foreigners to cast lots for Jerusalem, looking down on your brother “in the day of his misfortune.” Jonah (1:07) offers the story of a ship that has been disabled by a storm. The crew believes it is because a sinner is on board, and they cast lots to find that it is Jonah. Nahum records the Lord’s anger at Nineveh as he spoke of people casting lots for her nobles and putting her great men in chains (Nahum 3:10).
In Isaiah (36:08) it is reported that Judah is asked to make a wager with the king of Assyria in which he can win 2,000 horses for Israel if he is able to put riders upon them. The story is repeated in 2 Kings (18:23).
These references to lots, throwing of dicelike objects, and wagering are not at all judgmental (collectively) regarding the desirability of gambling or the acceptability of gambling. The same may be said for New Testament references that include the use of lots (some think dice) by Roman soldiers to decide which centurion would receive the clothing of the crucified Christ (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:24; Acts 1:26). Certainly this is a negative light in which gambling is classed. But contemporary with that event was the use of lots to select a replacement for Judas in the group of twelve disciples (Act 1:21–26).
Because the Bible contains no direct condemnation of gambling (not even in the Ten Commandments), different religious groups among Christians and Jews interpret its writings in various ways. Some point to the many uses of gambling devices in decision situations, essentially as objects for divination, as a justification of gambling.  Others say that the use of lots to determine God’s will is substantially different from using gambling for personal gain. Other biblical passages suggest that there might be evil in gambling. The writers of Isaiah (65:11–12) state, “But you who forsake the lord who set a table for fortune and fill the cups of mixed wine for destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to slaughter”. Proverbs (13:11) suggests that winnings from gambling are only temporary: “Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but he who gathers little by little will increase it”. Other Old Testament references suggest that gambling represents covetousness or stealing, which is condemned (Exodus 20:15–17). The New Testament admonition to give up possessions and follow the Lord suggests that the quest for wealth through gambling is not appropriate. Tom Watson, in Don’t Bet on It, feels that a further commandment against gambling beyond the Ten Commandments would have been somewhat redundant. “If God didn’t get our attention with his laws about stealing and coveting, He probably felt any reference to gambling would be ignored as well” (Watson 1987, 63).

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Red Dog - Gambling in AmericaRed Dog is a casino card game (as well as a private game) in which the player is dealt a total of three cards from a standard deck. The player makes an opening bet, and then the first two cards are dealt face up. The player may then double the bet or let stand the original bet. The player wagers that the third card, which is then dealt, will fall between the first two cards. (An ace is considered the highest card). If the first two cards are consecutive (e.g., a 6 and a 7), the play is considered a draw, and no third card is given. If both cards are the same (e.g., a 3 and a 3), a third card is given to the player. If it is the same (another 3), the player wins an eleven-to-one payoff. If it is different, the game is a draw. For other cards the player wins if the third card falls between the first two. The payoff is even money if the first two cards have at least a four-card spread between them.  If the spread is three cards in between, and the third card comes between the first two, the payoff is two-to-one; if the spread is only two cards, and the player wins, the payoff is four-to one; but if there is only one card in between the first two, and that card is played for the player, the payoff is five-to-one.
Red Dog is a very simple game to understand, as the table indicates all play and payoff possibilities, and as such it has some popularity. It is not found in many U.S. casinos, however, as it provides the house a substantial advantage of nearly 10%.

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